Republicans Hold Onto Seat on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court

Democrats still control the seven-seat court, which has been thrust into legal battles over coronavirus orders and gerrymandering.,

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Republicans prevail in an expensive race for a seat on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court.

Kevin Brobson, a Commonwealth Court judge,  at a polling site in Harrisburg, Pa., on Tuesday. He prevailed in his bid for a seat on the state's Supreme Court vacated by a fellow Republican.
Kevin Brobson, a Commonwealth Court judge, at a polling site in Harrisburg, Pa., on Tuesday. He prevailed in his bid for a seat on the state’s Supreme Court vacated by a fellow Republican. Credit…Marc Levy/Associated Press
  • Nov. 3, 2021, 1:38 p.m. ET

Even without presidential contenders fanning out across the state, Pennsylvania presented one of the biggest prizes in this year’s elections, one influencing everything from the governor’s coronavirus powers to redistricting — a seat on the state’s Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, P. Kevin Brobson, a Republican and a Commonwealth Court judge, defeated Maria McLaughlin, a Democrat and a Superior Court judge, in a fiercely contested race for a seat vacated by a Republican. The candidates raised more than $5 million, much from special interests.

Unofficial tallies reported by the Pennsylvania Department of State showed Judge Brobson with about 52 percent of the vote.

The election protected one of the two seats Republicans control on the seven-member court in Pennsylvania, which is one of a handful of states that elect rather than appoint their Supreme Court justices.

While judicial races often fly under the radar, they are hugely consequential.

In Pennsylvania over the past few years, the Supreme Court has redrawn the state’s congressional districts, throwing away a Republican gerrymander and contributing to Democrats’ net gain of four House seats there in 2018. It has also upheld an emergency declaration that enabled Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, to issue stay-at-home orders and other restrictions in response to the pandemic; allowed Pittsburgh to enact a paid sick leave law; and slapped down a Republican lawsuit seeking to invalidate mail-in ballots in the 2020 election.

Given the persistence of efforts by former President Donald J. Trump and his allies to delegitimize the voting process, more election-related cases are likely to come before the court. So might one or more cases challenging Pennsylvania Republicans’ efforts to subpoena voters’ personal information in their bid for a partisan review of the 2020 election results. The court is also expected to decide whether Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program must cover abortion without restrictions.

Republicans also won judicial races in lower courts. Megan Sullivan beat Timika Lane, a Democrat, for a seat on the state’s Superior Court. Stacy Wallace, a Republican, finished first among four candidates for two seats on the Commonwealth Court. Another Republican, Drew Crompton, who was seeking a permanent seat on the court, was leading the two Democrats in that race.

Daniel Slotnik contributed reporting.

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